Brain activity and network interactions in the impact of internal emotional distraction: A multi-modal brain imaging investigation
Florin Dolcos1, Alexandru Iordan2, Matthew Moore1, Yuta Katsumi1, Sanda Dolcos1; 1University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2University of Michigan
Despite a growing body of work investigating emotional distraction from external sources (i.e., the outside world), less is known about the neuro-behavioral mechanisms associated with the impact of emotional distraction coming from internal sources (i.e., our mind), and those involved in coping with such distraction. Particularly unclear is the link between the spatial (where) and temporal (when) aspects of the neural correlates of these phenomena. The present study investigated these issues using a working memory task with emotional distraction, where recollected unpleasant autobiographical memories served as internal emotional distraction. Emotion regulation was manipulated by instructing participants (N=29) to focus their attention either on or away from the emotional aspects of their memories. As expected, focusing away from emotion was associated with reduced impairing effect of internal emotional distraction on working memory performance, compared to focusing on the recollected emotions. Functional MRI data (N=17) showed decreased response in brain regions associated with the salience network. This was coupled with greater recruitment of executive prefrontal and memory-related temporo-parietal regions, and with increased fronto-parietal connectivity, when participants focused on non-emotional contextual details of their memories. Preliminary data from multi-modal brain imaging recordings (fMRI-ERP) extended these results and showed further spatio-temporal dissociations convergent across modalities, during internal distraction and as a function of focused attention. These findings provide novel evidence regarding the neural correlates of successfully engaging focused attention as an emotion regulation strategy to cope with distressing memories, which can be effectively captured by fMRI and ERP recordings.
Topic Area: EMOTION & SOCIAL: Emotion-cognition interactions